Full steam ahead in production
and no decline in growth graph

By Jette Beck (Translated from Danish)

Cameras in four weaner sections mean constant monitoring of the pigs' gain, no manual weighing, and maximization of the full growth potential.

Jacob Søgaard Buus, 30, is farm manager at MB Landbrug, where he has been monitoring the data flow from the ProGrow system for eighteen months. MB Landbrug has a full-line production of 500 sows, producing 17,000 finishers at its facility in Nibe, Denmark.

"We have finished ten batches, and it seems that adapting the feed mixtures and optimizing management have enabled us to increase the weaners' gain by 150 grams a day from 15 to 30 kg," Jacob Søgaard Buus tells us. The cameras estimate the pigs' weight based on their surface area, using images taken two meters above the pen floor.

Growth graph declines upon feed change
"When we check-weigh the pigs, the ProGrow weight graphs reveal that we no longer see any decline in the growth graph when the feed is changed. The check-weighings made by ProGrow stay within the three percent framework," Jacob Søgaard Buus explains.

"Without ProGrow, we do not see declines in the growth graphs because we do not weigh the pigs every day. When you see that something is wrong, you can react." Jacob has done an excellent job making changes to the management and feeding with help from the feed mill Hedegaard. "The pigs are now growing constantly throughout the production period," says Hans Ulrik Jensen. He is a pig production specialist at SKOV A/S and now works full-time on supporting pig producers using ProGrow globally.

ProGrow, developed by SKOV A/S, was awarded three stars at Agromek in 2016. It is an integrated system for the management and monitoring the pigs' weight gain, from weaning to slaughter. The images from the cameras are analyzed by an algorithm, determining the pigs' weight based on their top surface area. The system also records feed and water consumption, which can then be compared to the weight data.

Real-time data creating opportunities
Although ProGrow is yet to become widespread in Danish finisher units due to the proliferation of restrictive liquid feeding (the cameras are currently optimized for dry feeding), the system is proving its worth in weaner productions.

When the pigs have the right age and a uniform weight, they will also have uniformly developed intestines. It means that they are all tolerant of and can exploit the protein and their growth potential.

"The effect of the cameras in the weaner sections is immediately obvious. The system is founded on real-time data, which is a major advantage. The daily collection on pig weight, climate, and feed and water consumption enables us to get an overview of the production, which means that we can intervene quickly if the temperature, feed, and water intake, or the animals' gain is not as expected," explains Anders Amstrup, senior adviser at Hedegaard A/S. Since spring 2019, he has been monitoring developments at MB Landbrug and integrating changes to the feed change process and the feed itself. He explains that for Hedegaard, the primary focus is how digital solutions can contribute with knowledge to optimize agricultural production. That is why the feed mill Hedegaard, a part of Danish Agro, started its collaboration with SKOV A/S on ProGrow. Hedegaard believes that ProGrow is the best product on the market for production monitoring based on real-time data.

Change of feed delayed, gain improved
"ProGrow provides with a great deal of knowledge about whether the different feed mixtures work in practice. It is unique the way we can interlink data. We check the gain in all three phases in the weaner section and determine when the pigs will be tolerant of more protein concurrently with the pigs' age, weight, and the development of their intestines," the adviser informs us enthusiastically.

"One of the things we have done is adjusting the protein content of the mixtures and postpone the feed change to mixture #3 from 15 to 18 kg, which has paid off," Anders Amstrup tells us. Mixture #2 from 9 to 18 kg now has an extra six grams of digestible crude protein per kg. In mixture #3, which the pigs receive from 18 to 30 kg, the amount of digestible crude protein has increased by more than ten grams. Such a large shift in the primary feed would not be possible without data from the ProGrow system, allowing you to monitor the pigs' weight using real-time data.

"I admit that, when Anders suggested continuing with mixture #2 for an extra week, I wondered whether he was in his right mind," Jacob Søgaard Buus admits. However, the farm manager has a head for figures and was persuaded when the adviser showed him the decline in the growth graph at feed change.

Saves 40 tonnes of feed per year
The controlled environment unit is producing very well at MB Landbrug. Following the adjustment to the feed, the feed consumption dropped by 0.08 feed units per kg gain. Feed conversion of 1.6 feed units per kg gain means that around 40 tonnes of feed are saved per year, which we achieved after setting up the cameras and optimizing the feeding and sorting.

The use of medication is also low because there is no decline in the pigs' growth at feed change.
"It is easier to look after the pigs," says Jacob Søgaard Buus. He collects data from the ProGrow system at least once a week, while the screen in the lunchroom shows images and graphs from the pens with cameras all the time. Four pens in the weaner section are monitored; there are 30 pigs in each pen, and the cameras take 600 to 700 images per pen per day. It means that 20 percent of the weaners are monitored at MB Landbrug. Hans Ulrik Jensen highlights that SKOV recommends that between 5 and 20 percent of the pigs should be monitored, providing a representative performance overview.